These Aren't Your Father's Culture Wars

Republicans have found themselves on the wrong side of several social issues.

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The culture wars are back and this time the left is winning.

More than anything else, the rapid growth in support for gay marriage illustrates the changes in American culture and politics. We are living in a completely different society than we were in the 1980's and 1990's. The boomers are on their way out, taking their conservative stands with them, and the millennials are proudly marching in, progressive views in hand.

There was a time when Democrats lived in constant fear of "Guns, God and Gays." Now it's the Republicans' turn to worry as larger numbers of Americans support gay marriage, immigration reform and gun control. The GOP will have to come up with a new formula to win campaigns or the party will become irrelevant. Adapt or die!

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Now it's time for Republicans to fear the culture wars just as Democrats did in the 1980's and 1990's. Last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio switched his position to support gay marriage. Even Democrats in red states like Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kay Hagen of North Carolina have seen the light and now support same-sex marriage.

In 2003, according to an ABC News/Washington poll, a majority of Americans opposed gay marriage by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent.  Ten years later, most Americans are onboard with same sex nuptials and the numbers are exactly the opposite of what they were in 2003. In the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, four of every five (81 percent) Americans under 30 favor gay marriage.  As the millennial generation becomes a greater and greater proportion of the population and the electorate, opposition to gay marriage will get even smaller. In a CBS News survey of American Catholics, three out of five (62 percent) of the faithful support gay marriage.

A majority of Americans now support gun control and immigration reform. In the new ABC News/Washington Post survey, nine in ten Americans (91 percent) favor background checks on gun purchases and a clear majority (57 percent favor to 41 percent oppose) supports a ban on assault weapons. A new survey by the Public Religion Research institute indicates at six in ten (61 percent) Americans want undocumented aliens to get legal status.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

The left may be winning battles on most of the fronts in the culture wars, but there is one issue that has put progressives on the defensive. Public support for Roe v Wade remains high, but state governments in the West and in the South have made it more difficult for women to make decisions about their own bodies.

According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute a clear majority (56 percent legal to 38 percent illegal) of Americans want abortion to be legal all or most of the time. The states of North Dakota and Arkansas have both enacted laws that strictly limit abortions. Both laws violate the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade and federal courts will probably nullify them.

It will be difficult for the GOP to cope with the new social order. Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus has been beat up by conservatives since he released a study last week that called for the GOP to moderate its issue stands to become politically effective. This week, Priebus felt the heat from the extremists in his party and he backtracked and said the GOP will still have the same agenda which was the party platform adopted at the 2012 national convention.

If the chairman was referring to the platform that calls for outlawing all abortions without any exceptions, the GOP will be spending the next generation in the deep freeze of the political Arctic.

  • Read Mary Kate Cary: It's Time for Marion Barry to Retire
  • Read Ford O'Connell: It Doesn't Take Guts for Democrats to Support Gay Marriage
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